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Elon Musk sends obscene emoji to Twitter boss amid argument over spam

Entrepreneur worried about ‘fundamental health of Twitter’

Andrew Griffin
Technology editor
Tuesday 17 May 2022 08:10 BST
Related video: Amber Heard recalls meeting Elon Musk
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Elon Musk has sent an insulting emoji to Twitter’s chief executive as part of his fight against spam.

Last week, Mr Musk announced that his proposed takeover of the social media platform was “on hold” as he looked for more information about spam, bots and fake accounts on the platform.

Mr Musk suggested that he did not believe Twitter’s own estimate that less than 5 per cent of the active accounts on its platform were automated or spam accounts.

Since then, both parties have been largely quiet on the issue, leading to speculation that Mr Musk could be looking for a way out of the deal.

Now, Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal has published a long thread in which he said he would take on the issue “with the benefit of data, facts, and context”.

In the thread, he said that Twitter estimated that the number of fake accounts was actually “well under” 5 per cent. But he also said that only Twitter could provide that estimate, because it relied on private information that Twitter was unable to share.

That prompted Mr Musk to send the turd emoji, presumably in disbelief at Mr Agrawal’s claims.

In a follow-up post, Mr Musk pressed Mr Agrawal for further information about how many real and active accounts were present on the platform.

“So how do advertisers know what they’re getting for their money? This is fundamental to the financial health of Twitter,” he wrote.

In another post, Mr Agrawal detailed difficulties with finding out whether any given account is real or fake, even when those checks are conducted by real people.

“Each human review is based on Twitter rules that define spam and platform manipulation, and uses both public and private data (eg, IP address, phone number, geolocation, client/browser signatures, what the account does when it’s active…) to make a determination on each account,” Mr Agrawal wrote.

“Have you tried just calling them?” Mr Musk replied.

Mr Musk’s new focus on Twitter bots began with a tweet last week, in which he linked to an article about Twitter filings that included the 5 per cent claim. In that same post he announced that the deal was “temporarily on hold”.

Mr Musk has not shared any progress on the deal since, and has not elaborated on his concerns with the platform.

That has led many to speculate that Mr Musk could be looking for a way out of the high-profile deal, especially given that Twitter’s share price has plunged and with investor confidence in tech stocks rapidly faling.

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